Tag Archives: live music

“There Are No Words to Describe This Place:” Adventure at the O St. Mansion

The O Street Mansion is an enthralling combination of hotel, art gallery, used-bookery, floor-to-ceiling kitsch, and Hogwarts that you simply must visit and explore sometime soon.  I’m not sure what to call it, just a building that is so quirky and odd and un-DC that it begs exploration and discovery!

The Mansion as it stands today is five old row houses converted into one dwelling, located on O Street between 20th and 21st Streets NW.  Its main function, as far as I can tell, is as a hotel, with rooms ranging in themes from the John Lennon Suite (complete with a chessboard in the bathroom and white jeweled pillows) to a log cabin style loft to Victorian-style homey and decorative.  Oh, and many of the rooms have bidets.  Bidets!  The epitome of luxury!

Not only can you stay at the Mansion, you can literally buy anything contained within it.  Everything is for sale, from the $5 hardcover of “The Bridges of Madison County” that I bought to $5,000 pieces of art on the wall to the carpets to the jukebox to the original Remington sculpture.  It really adds to the allure, to know that any piece of beauty/kitsch that you lay your eyes upon and discover can be yours.

And I have not even mentioned the most alluring part of the O St. Mansion, that there are over 30 secret doors concealed throughout the place.  Now, some of these must be truly secret, as I only discovered about 10, but it is quite titillating to discover that the mirror in which you are checking out your hairstyle opens up into a staircase.  Make sure you ask your tour guide or the friendly concierge to show you the wine cellar—you’ll never find it on your own!

If this sounds like a terrible model for a hotel—curious visitors peering into your private space—fear not.  The only rule on the self-guided tours of the Mansion is not to open doors marked with “Do Not Disturb.”  In fact, friends have told me that it is common for covert agents and other seeking the surreptitious lifestyle to stay here, as you can truly not be found if you are trying to hide.

History of the place is a bit difficult to track down, but most recently the houses were purchased by art collector H.H. Leonards  in 1980.  She continues to be proprietor, and hosts music, art, and cultural events almost every day of the year.  Famous folks have visited, from Rosa Parks to guitar legends to foreign dignitaries.

The O Street Mansion is one of those rare places that you feel like you are the first to discover, that no one else has set foot in the rooms besides you—the feeling I imagine those children got stepping through the wardrobe in the “Chronicles of Narnia.”  If you are looking to lose yourself in somewhere completely unexpected, that changes every time you visit, it’s high time you head over to your quirky neighborhood Mansion.

To visit:  many ways, from overnight to $5 self-guided tours to brunch to Martini Mondays to becoming a full member.  See the website for options and details.  Sundays and Mondays are the easiest and cheapest days to visit.  2020 O Street NW, Washington DC.

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Harikaraoke, the Best Show in Town!

(Guest post by Sarah Cunningham).

The District has a lot of nearly everything you can imagine…But one thing I hear again and again is that there is not enough karaoke.  There’s Peyote Cafe and there’s Cafe Japone, and a handful of others, but people seem to stumble when needing to come up with a karaoke bar, and come up with it quick.

But it just so happens this little shortage has been solved, as there’s a new show in town: Harikaraoke, karaoke with a twist–karaoke with a live band.  Doesn’t that make perfect sense?  Harikaraoke happens every Tuesday night at Wonderland in Columbia Heights (yes, yes, I know, Wonderland is a well-traveled bar, not exactly off the beaten path, but their Harikaraoke is still a secret enough that warrants posting).

The band behind this genius is a 4-man show that molds to just about every brave soul that takes the mic.  The keyboard player is intense and wonderful, pounding out his keys while making eye contact with each singer, urging them on and on as they belt out whichever classic they’ve chosen.  The bass player has the classic flowy hair of a band-man and keeps the beat like a force to be reckoned with; the drummer rocks out his rhythms in great time; and the guitarist is known to take the lead and break out into some mad solos when the force takes him.  The MC is adorable, with blue heels and a fedora hat, and a voice fit for the stage.  Together, they give every singer their shot at the stage, and they rock the house.

There must be something about doing karaoke with a live band, as there were some class acts.  One very classy gentleman took the stage and started singing “Tempted by the Fruit of Another” oh-so-softly into the microphone, never once glancing at the lyrics.  As the band got into the song, so did the singer, raising his pitch more and more, until he was howling into the mic, accompanied with a few twists and twirls and even a scream for the audience.  As he bowed and took his leave, a lovely young woman came up and rocked the house with “It’s Raining Men”.  In an ode to the Spice Girls, an unforgettable trio belted out “Tell Me What You Want”, complete with hand gestures and the works.  Another lovely lady wooed us all with “Lost Without You”, and my friend Jose dazzled the bar with his version of “Billy Jean” (yes, he danced in tribute to dear MJ, too!).  Finally, the adorable fedora-wearing, blue-heel-clad MC took the microphone and closed the night with Prince’s “Purple Rain”, which got the whole audience crooning along with her as the night came to a close.  I was honestly so sad that it was over!  (And hoarse, as I was too chicken to take the stage, but sang my heart out along with every singer from my seat.)

Oh, did I mention that it is free to get in, and comes with a bar special of $3 brewskis accompanied by a complimentary shot of “liquid courage” (aka: vodka)??  Tuesday nights at Wonderland–8 pm – 10 pm.  See you there!

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